top of page

Going on instinct

"Taste and see that the LORD is good..." Psalm 34.8

When it comes to the matter of perceiving, 18th century Scottish philosopher, Thomas Reid, makes three points: we believe something to be true/ real about that which we perceive; we are therefore convinced of its existence; and that is by instinct and not reason. Reid allows for two exceptions: lunatics - because they are mentally unstable; and philosophers - because of their insistence upon over-thinking everything, which deludes them into being unnecessarily sceptical. Revealing the humorous side of his nature, Reid justifies his poor opinion of fellow philosophers by stating that he never heard of any that walked into a furnace or a kennel because they were sceptical about their instinctive perception of the danger of fire or dogs!

Following Reid's logic, belief in God is not as irrational as the sceptics would like to suggest. We might not be able to apprehend God completely but we can perceive enough of him to know that he exists, not because we have dreamed up the idea of God but because we have encountered his real presence. An unlikely ally is the artist Vincent van Gogh, who insisted that if a person devotes themself wholeheartedly to admiring great art or to the exercise of ultimate virtues, such as love, then they will inevitably perceive God, who is the source of beauty and love and all things good and pure. Time to suspend fretting about the meaning of life and get on with living... latha math dhuibh!



bottom of page